Originally, my daughter had a small blue bin of LEGO bricks and other components. We later added a couple of other small sets and bulk boxes of bricks and such, which essentially filled the bin.
And then my obsession with LEGO began...
Right now, all of LEGO pieces in our house are mixed together. There isn't really differentiation between mine and hers, except for the sets which are targeted toward older teens and adults (Tower Bridge, Grand Emporium, Fire Brigade). Over the past month I have purchased a ton -- the before mentioned sets, other large sets (houses, various parts of the city line), large bins from the educational division (rescue, vehicles, etc.), bulk boxes of bricks/wheels/doors/windows/minifigs, and several Ebay purchases (3-16 lb lots, plus some specific items).
I'm working to organize and catalog what I have. However, due to the size of the collection, it makes it a bit tricky for my daughter (4 years old) to work with. She's good about keeping things in their correct bins, but finding the bin she wants, and remembering to put it away when she's done, have been a challenge. Also, she tries to carry the 6-quart shoebox sized plastic bins from one room to the next, which has ended with dropping them a few times and spilling all of their contents.
We have the rule of no messing with something mommy is currently working on, which she's usually good about remembering (but not always). We spend time together putting together sets as well, which will most likely be some of the City sets. Right now we're working on the garage, but police station, fire station, are in the queue. Once those are built, she will be allowed to play with them. But she's not permitted to play with the Tower Bridge (which I put up on a mantel anyway, so she really can't reach it easily). I did, however, let her help me by building the vehicles to put on the bridge. She loves building vehicles! And that part of the set was well within her current abilities and attention span. She was thrilled with getting a chance to help on mommy's big project.
This brings me to my question: For those of you with young children, do you set any rules regarding which bricks and other components your child is allowed to use? Or do you give them access to the entire collection? Certain sets will be off limits for her, but I'm unsure how to handle the general collection of bricks and components. Have you had luck in allowing a preschool/kindergarten-aged child to freely use the general collection for building? I've considered setting aside a bunch of bricks and components in small bins or even a divided tray for the special pieces, which will be her collection that she can freely use whenever. Have any of you tried that? Did it work, or did your kid get upset about not having ready access to the entire collection?
If you do let your kid have access to your entire collection, what's the easiest way for them to locate a part they want? The clear shoebox sized bins are easy to see into, but I have my smaller pieces in multi-compartment cases, and it's easy to see inside by looking through the top, but when they are stored stacked, you obviously can't see in the top at all times. If she's going to be using those regularly, I need to find a way to label them that's clear for her. She can't really read yet, but is starting to learn to recognize some words, The labels would definitely have to have a strong pictorial component. Has anyone made those for their collection? Any suggestions for that?
Any advice you could give me regarding this matter would be greatly appreciated. I **love** playing with LEGO with my daughter, but having her constantly pull out 5-10 bins at a time and not clean up appropriately has gotten quite frustrating.
My apologies for writing such a long post. I never thought it would end up this long, but here we are. If you have taken the time to read all the way through, I really, really appreciate it.
IM 37 and i have a 5 and 2 year old, and its safe to say 70% of our family together time is spent around a pile of Lego Bricks. I feel your pain on the organization front. I don't think there is any real right answer, but ill tell you how we do it. First a few givens
First, No matter how big your collection gets it will never all be sorted perfectly. with an acquisition mindset like you have demonstrated (and most of us share) you will always have a bin of 2BESORTED Bricks.
Second, Rules are ok, the play itself should be free and fun but the overall Lego experience benefits from some rigid rules. In our house we even make it part of the play. when we start a session of building we recite them out loud to kind of get us into the mindset.
1. no putting Lego in your mouth
2. No putting Lego on the floor outside of the play area (this helps keep mom sane by reducing the number of Lego she finds on her floor during the week to zero, and therefore reduces the bad feeling toward the hobby she has to zero:) )
3. No messing with or making fun of someone elses build. (if in doubt leave it alone and play with other brick.)
4. All brick goes in the unsorted box after build time is done.
5. At all costs HAVE FUN. If its not fun , stop and come back later.
I started with those because it kind of informs as to why we organize the way we do. The 2 year old has a ton of duplo, but doesn't have his own Lego collection yet. He plays with lego builds from the family, but mostly he Builds with his duplo.
The five year old has a number of sets of her own and a large sterilite tub of mixed brick. these she is allowed to keep in her room and play with as she wishes but they don't get mixed with the family collection and cant come into the family play sessions.
The rules still apply to her "private stash" as it were.
My collection, or the family collection is getting ridiculously large. Not on the scale of some of the "pro" collectors here, but for a family play collection, is really getting out of hand. we have about 800 lbs of brick, about half sorted into part type then color half unsorted stored in 7 large sterilite bins. in addition we have about 600 build sets/mocs on shelves around the play room (converted garage).
When its time to play heres how we do it. Obviously the 2 year old really doesn't participate but he loves to move the pre-built car and truck sets around while his sister and i build. If its a store bought set, she goes in about 10 mins before me and sorts all the pieces into different colored piles and puts them in segmented plastic boxes. we then start. ill open the instructions and go in and grab all the parts for each step on the open page, and she will start on the first step and try to assemble it. If she runs into trouble, or there is a particularly hard step ill jump in. she gets about 80% done herself and i stay busy pulling parts in advance so she can keep building. we have allot of fun and really feel like we spent good time together after we are done.
if we know what we want to build we will pull the bins that have the parts we want and sit in the middle of them in a big circle. pulling parts to the middle as needed. this way they stay sorted unless we need them and she leans how to sort and keep them organized by using parts out of the different sort bins, and going to retrieve new bins as needed. at this point shes faster sorting than i am and knows most of the names of the pieces, and i mean even the obscure ones. she constantly corrects me when i get them wrong. its really awesome the brain power of a 5 year old.
If we are freeform building, we pick the parts we want and empty them into a pile on the floor, and have little challenges. sometimes it will be "build a car, whoever has the best car at the end gets to keep it on a shelf in the living room for a week". Sometimes its, "lets build a spaceship, you build me some engines, or wings or a cockpit". however we do it we really have good quality time together and she learns allot while we do it.
Regardless, at the end all the pieces we have pulled either go on a shelf, as a moc or set, or into the unsorted box. Tuesday nights we sort in front of some show we all love, to ensure there are always parts to use :)
Much of this may not be applicable to your situation, but as your collection grows it may. regardless... you asked :)
I hope that wasnt to long and sorry for the typo's :)
My worry for the future is that lego won't be special for my kids, as I'll have so much around, what if they don't like lego (!!!!) or presents of lego aren't considered real presents as it's just adding to the huge pile that already exists - have any parent's experienced this apathy?
The way I started with my son (when he was 5, now 8) was with small Star Wars sets like Imperial Dropship and Rebel Scout Speeder. We built those together and for the most part he got the hang of it (with help from dad). Then I bought a duplicate set for him and let him free build from those kits. He combined the ships, then took apart and made smaller crafts. I felt it was a good way to just play around with parts. No instructions.
Since then, what I've done is let him fill up a big PAB cup with whatever parts he likes and let him free build on those large green base plates. He has a lot of fun with this.
He still does the occasional kits, with the largest he's built on his own (no help from dad) was Venice Canal Chase and Armored Assault Tank. He sticks to small to mid sized sets though and again, he'll build the set, then take apart and use only those pieces to create something new or combine two small set.
I've also found as a parent those Brickmaster books, like Castle or Star Wars, are great for kids to build and rebuild various dioramas or ships. It gives them a finite amount of bricks and various parts to play and explore. We love 'em.
I guess what I'm getting at is definitely go for the free build route with bricks and smaller kits just for your kid. I have my own semi organize bricks that I keep separate from my son I use for my Mod's and occansional Moc's (I really need to get back to doing more of those). Models that are expensive, like Batman that are going for hundreds on eBay I just let him play a little but not to take apart or throw around. Everything else is fair game and we've been building together for 3 years now so he knows to keep everything together on the table, and if something falls, just snap it back on. We keep it casual and like other say and everyone knows, keep it FUN...that's what it's all about...word!